Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Too Late

Singing the chorus for this song in the proper key is a challenge. It requires lots of force, which is why the microphone was momentarily overwhelmed in certain sections. Please overlook.

Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time
There's something wrong here
there can be no denying

One of us is changing
or maybe we've just stopped trying

And it's too late, baby, now it's too late
Though we really did try to make it
Something inside has died
and I can't hide and I just can't fake it

It used to be so easy living here with you
You were light and breezy
and I knew just what to do

Now you look so unhappy
and I feel like a fool
There'll be good times again
for me and you

But we just can't stay together
don't you feel it too?
Still I'm glad for what we had,
and how I once loved you

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bonus Early Quote of the Week

"I never truckled, I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies. By God, I told them the truth. They liked it or they didn’t like it. What had that to do with me? I told them the truth; I knew it for the truth then, and I know it for the truth now."- Frank Norris


I wrote this when I was 22. Strangely enough, I still think it has merit.


sound over of conversation lips smacking against cigarette filters giggles rustling of plastic bags full of pills childish needless flinty flicks of lighters all culminating in squeals of girls who saunter up to the bathroom with their lovers to dose to swallow the necessary amount of water in the cheap plastic cups and upon doing so collapse onto sofas together in a heap of hair and rumpled clothing

then fade in on where I’m sitting alone 

she has witch tits emily and jessica say they’ve been inseparable as long as I’ve been a part of this group of friends two years or more months or more

I say what do you mean by that? they say well they’re all pointy and you know like cone shaped and I say ewww gross

the lead girl the one who has been in charge of distributing the beans and who will later implore me to rub her head once the drugs kick in is named Maggie

the woman in question is a short order cook at the local bar and grille and wears jeans that smell of the residue of the trade hot grease warm toast fried anything so Maggie is saying that 

I’m glad we’re all together tonight at my place and make yourself at home  though I really don’t know anyone don’t really know why I’ve even here tonight just that I didn’t have much else to do on a Friday night I’m self-conscious about most things about myself including the black hair around my nipples and my arms and my knuckles that I used to shave away out of shame and now just let grow to spite my mother when she visits

when I was in high school she’d often say i don’t know why someone so pretty would ever leave the house looking so ugly not that I was ever the epitome of beautiful even when I tried to be fluffy and dainty I’m rough as a board and as plain as one but I was never content to complete bull-dyke out and buzz my head and wear some hideously lopsided visor

camera pulls out centering on the black light meant to accentuate the drug being taken the lights dimmed now the clock nearly ten o’clock in the evening the stale stench of charred tobacco wafting in now and then as it is perfectly still night with no wind 

camera pulls overhead to me sitting alone solitary on the couch I dosed nearly an hour ago and I can’t say I know exactly what these green pills contain other than I manage to catch the strains of other peoples’ conversations as though they were my own thoughts

for instance the pair next to me is currently vying for the title of world’s most annoying lesbian couple loud and all over each other and cooing to each other about promises made of ultimate fidelity 

you remember hun that when we get older we’re going to china to adopt a baby one of the couple the 
brunette one with eyes like a doe dislodges obviously intoxicated slinks across the floor and asks me abruptly to guess one of her secrets 

your secrets? I ask perplexed 

yes, my secrets sweetie she slurs and brushes a finger against one of my lips 

well I say thinking I bet that you almost died when you were a child and instead of the intended or expected reaction to something that outlandish she grabs me by the shoulders and shakes me how did you know that? who told you that? I’ve never told anyone that before tell me what powers you possess

and quickly her partner drags her away from the issue with a deep kiss and everyone goes back to what they were doing so I resume staring at the ceiling the ceiling is a high a frame that reminds me of the small baptist church mom dragged me along to when I was a little girl I would lie in her lap and lie across one of the uncomfortable unpadded hard wooden pews and stare at the majesty of the rough pine planks that seemed to tower towards heaven while at the same time smarting from the scabs and scraps that inevitably crisscrossed both knees as a result of a Saturday spent playing outside in the woods 

camera focuses squarely on the center of the room Maggie claims that one of the group must be rescued Maggie is always rescuing someone usually it’s whomever she wants to sleep with but you don’t ask questions of Maggie this is Maggie’s place and her drugs and her food that she has thoughtfully prepared for the occasion

Technically this is her grandfather’s place who few of us has ever seen he is apparently an eccentric old reclusive transvestite who just wants to be left alone he scarcely leaves his bedroom and his only condition with Maggie is that she not left guys sleep over this is hardly a problem 

I hear the loud rumbling of Maggie’s car departing the car has a broken muffler that she refuses to get fixed so as a result it is about as subtle upon entrance as she is 

multiple camera shots of women leading women hand by hand into bedrooms it is the time of night where the true meaning of this party becomes evident there was a time I once defended Maggie 
you know she’s bouncy they’d say and I like a fool would deny it time and time again 

you wanted to trust her you want to trust Maggie everyone’s slightly in love with her and so I am I suppose once this girl I barely knew pretty much threw herself upon Maggie deep down inside I’m sure the snake-charmer does have a heart so she did take the opportunity to remove her bra one handed 

I haven’t lost my touch Maggie said satisfied but then quickly lost interest and fell asleep next to the poor girl but at this moment camera zooms towards door the aforementioned dream-goddess enters with a girl around her waist Maggie surely does like the young ones this one can’t be more than seventeen at best and makes herself at home in front of the big screen television

flips on mtv I just ate another bean on the way over Maggie says so what do you want me to do about it?

rub my head she says I thought that’s what you got her for I say gesticulating towards the tiny body with eyeballs now glued to the screen 

nah she’s not my type she bores me so who is your type I ask skeptically well, maybe you tonight she says and without thinking I take her hand and walk into the bedroom with her the teen sensation scarcely notices we’ve left.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hookup Church

Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball

Hookup Church

This wasn’t the most conventional religious gathering I had experienced, for sure. This was a church that took itself and its stances very seriously. In the days of George W. Bush, a bad memory now set for slow fade, the minister in his pulpit seethed with righteous indignation about the loss of civil liberties. One was expected to care passionately and reinforce the same talking points. Nothing less than the the future of the country was at stake.

Raised a Methodist, the intersection between politics and religious expression was all unfamiliar to me. Strongly-worded statements and position paper bullet points never found their way into the minister’s sermon. It was suspect enough, in some eyes, that our pastor was a woman. She never made waves, reinforcing the same few scriptural passages with monotonous consistency. The Baptists might bring up The Revelation from time to time, but we played it safe.

Not here. What I found most arresting was not the service, though that was distinct enough in its own way. The church featured a very active young adult group, one in which it took great collective pride. I’ve always been a joiner and organizer at heart, so it wasn’t difficult to assert myself within a few weeks in those areas. Extra hands were always appreciated and needed.

In those days, I was still in my twenties, prime dating material. I’d formed romantic relationships with people in other houses of worship, usually without much success. Taking the traditional male role, I was usually the pursuer and persuader. In this situation, I was greatly in demand almost immediately. Being a traded commodity was initially flattering to the ego, but did not remain that way for very long.

It only took me a few months to register on the radar screens of seven or eight women in their early to mid-thirties. They were unusually aggressive in their burning compulsion to find a man. The first one to make a play had been married once before and was looking to walk down the aisle again. I’m usually the one to overplay my hand, so I saw myself reflected in her behavior. It wasn’t a comfortable realization and made me self-conscious of every subsequent move I made.

Not used to being the object of desire, I could not distinguish between desperation and interest. I found myself dissatisfied within a month of my first choice and, after two or three dates, exited in great haste. Her feelings for me had grown increasingly passionate and overzealous. Being with her felt smothering. I took her to bed because I felt sorry for her. Sex motivated by pity never feels satisfying.

She had consciously suppressed her opinions and passions, letting me rule the roost if I felt inclined. Quietly deferential did not sit well with me. I felt forced, as though I’d been a life goal she’d checked off the list in ballpoint pen with great satisfaction. Now she no longer needed to worry. Her life was finally complete.

One of the paradoxes of my life is that I feel called to leadership roles, but am often made very ill-at-ease by those who follow me. I don’t want to be idolized. Because of this, I have a love/hate relationship with humanity in the best of times. My standards are high and, as a result, my expectations are rarely met. People frequently disappoint me.

The same is true for me in relationships. While I enjoy being adored, within reason, I also appreciate being challenged and stretched. That’s the only way I’ve ever made greater growth within myself. In the book that brought Astrology to a much larger audience, Sun Signs, Linda Goodman writes about romantic pairings, that are, in her words, “pasted together with the sticky glue of bored, insincere flattery.”

I knew where I was headed and had no intention of continuing forward. Her zeal to find a new husband made just about anyone a candidate. I’m no stranger myself to the occasional lapses in judgment that come from low standards. In her situation, she’d never really gotten over the divorce. When sexual relations ceased between the two of them, the marriage effectively. Within a year or so, he re-established himself with a new woman.

She felt rejected and passed over, but these were issues she had to work out within herself. I was wary of taking on baggage beyond my own. The two of us broke things off not long afterwards. Now that I’d given it a try, I dived back into the church dating pool with great gusto. I wasn’t sure what would follow next, but felt optimistic and expectant for once.

A second woman from the group saw an opening and intended to exploit it as best she could. Following a Christmas party, she sought to sweet-talk me into taking a camping trip with her, alone. This was surprisingly transparent and, once bitten, I made my own polite excuses. By then, I had developed other affections and interests.

When I’d showed up a couple Sundays before later with my arm around another woman from the group, her sweetness was gone. This was, without meaning to be, something of a coming out for the two of us. The worship space was circular, bowl-shaped, making it easy to see most everyone in attendance. This made it easy to observe everyone’s strategic positioning. The symbolism was unmistakable and unconcealed.

My spiteful, slighted ex-lover deliberately positioned herself well away from me, yet within easy eyesight. She’d dressed herself up immaculately, almost ritualistically. Seated directly across the auditorium from me was a furious hatred that surprised me with its intensity. Concentrated jealousy beamed through the two of us.

I was not accustomed to being an object of desire, for any reason. I’d witnessed competitive behavior before, but not like this. Most partners I took were too socially awkward and self-doubting to make their feelings this glaringly obvious. I take no delight in producing strongly negative reactions in others.

She had been a freshman in college a couple years after I was born. It seems that we’d been noticed by many. As she exited worship, the minister shot her a quizzical glance. We say that age is just a number, but at times that statement is meant to disguise how we really feel about the spectacle of older women with younger men. With my baby face, I looked even younger than I actually was, while she looked every bit of her age.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quote of the Week

"I can spare a dime, brother, but in these morally inflationary times, a dime goes a lot farther if it's demanding work rather than adding to the indignity of relief."- Phil Ochs

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday Video

Back when she was only a rapper.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Quaker Outreach: A Talk with Jeffrey Eugendies

Hello Friends,

This passage comes from the newly released November 2012 edition of Friends Journal. Enjoy!

Jeffrey Eugendies first came to prominence with his 1993 novel The Virgin Suicides, which later became a critically-acclaimed 1999 movie starring Kristen Dunst and Kathleen Turner.


The last chapter of Jeffrey Eugenides’s best-selling 2011 novel The Marriage Plot begins:

There were a lot of things to admire about the Quakers. They had no clerical hierarchy. They recited no creed, tolerated no sermons. They’d established equality between the sexes in their Meetings as early as the 1600s. Just about every American social movement you could think of had been supported and often spearheaded by the Quakers, from abolition, to women’s rights, to temperance (O.K., one mistake), to civil rights, to environmentalism.
This paragraph goes on to admiringly note Quaker simplicity, ecumenicalism, pacifism and an inclusiveness that “makes room for Mitchell,” one of the novel’s three main characters. In the silence of the fictional Prettybrook (N.J.) Meeting, Mitchell seeks solace and, unexpectedly, experiences an epiphany that resolves a personal crisis that had both spurred and blocked his life’s journey.

A Pulitzer Prize winner and famous novelist, Eugenides has probably introduced more people to Quakerism with this final chapter of his book than all official Quaker outreach combined.

How did this Princeton professor and acclaimed writer ended up using Quakerism as a key plot device? I spoke with Jeffrey Eugenides to discuss how he became acquainted with Friends worship.

He told me that at Rhode Island’s Brown University, where he (and Mitchell) attended college, he and a Jewish friend from Chicago started going to the nearby Providence Friends meetinghouse. “I was taking a lot of religious study courses and going to lots of different religious meetings and services just to see what they were like. I wasn’t brought up religiously so was quite ignorant.

Of course, in those days (the early 1980s), one often started with the sort of eastern meditational aspect. I did transcendental meditation when I was 14 years old, as did almost every member of my family. So I was accustomed to the idea of quiet and silence.

The idea that this sort of practice existed in the Christian tradition, which was what I was born into, appealed to me. That one needn’t go to the east to find such practices is the main thing that attracted me.”

He has visited several meetings, including one with four people held in a Detroit steelworker’s living room. The simplicity and cleanliness of the services appealed to him as did the fact that his Japanese-American in-laws recounted stories of Quakers coming to see them off as they were sent to World War II internment camp.

He dismissed one reviewer’s criticism that Quakerism was “comfortably neutral,” saying Friends’ many stands for social justice, “are, in a way, the most radical and uncomfortable of all.” Eugenides added that one shouldn’t mistake “lack of vociferousness in the meetings for a lack of true inner-discipline and true commitment to living their lives according to the tenets of their faith.”

When reminded that Quakers traditionally rejected novels because they were not literally “true,” Eugenides said, “I think fiction allows you to say things you might not be able to otherwise: you assume a mask that, paradoxically, allows you to reveal yourself. . . .To get the reader to believe your story, you have to be accurate about the way people think, dress, speak, and behave. Tolstoy was one of the greatest truth-tellers that ever lived and, for the same reason, one of the greatest novelists.”

But Quakerism appeared in his novel because of its “appropriateness not in my own life but in what’s happening for my characters in their lives. It seemed to me that Mitchell’s search for a spiritual home might lead him to the Quakers.” He says that Mitchell “wanted solace and peace and, he hoped, an inspiration—a real connection with the spirit.”

In thinking about why, if many like Mitchell are seeking a spiritual home, Quakerism isn’t thriving, Eugenides mused, “In a certain way, Quakerism suffers from some of the problems that literature does. It demands a certain solitude and certain patience and there can be dull stretches. If you are not acquainted with meeting and you go there and sit for an hour in silence—it’s not easy for everyone to do that. 

People do like being distracted by a choir singing or perhaps an interesting or a funny sermon—the kind of thing that happens in other churches. Or even a recitation of prayers can get people through a mass. So it’s not the easiest or the most entertaining form of worship.

But, on the other hand, it seems very much suited to a modern sensibility. I don’t understand why it wouldn’t be more popular. I think there are fewer hurdles to jump over. You aren’t demanded to accept certain tenants from the get-go that may seem irrational. I would think that would appeal to a lot of people now.”

It would if Friends ever let seekers know they exist! But that’s not Jeffrey Eugenides’ problem. He’s done his part. Now it’s time for Quakers to do theirs so that seekers like Mitchell (and his creator) can find their spiritual home. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dig a Pony

An exceedingly rough demo, with guitar solo.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Due to Thanksgiving travel and obligations, posting here will be sparse for the rest of the week.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Simplicity (Not as Easy as It May Seem)

Today, during Meeting for Worship, we discussed the idea of Simplicity. All who shared ministry appeared to have very different, very personal definitions of a seemingly straightforward (even simple) concept.

What may motivate us in our efforts to de-clutter our lives is the concept of Asceticism, or self-denial. This may be well and good, in theory. Yet, what we seek to remove from our own lives is rarely uniformly applied from person to person. A related idea is that of purity, one which religious groups have been wrestling with for centuries. Which of us is as true to the original intent of some cherished principle as another? Or does it depend upon the person?

I visited the Meeting for Worship of a small group of Conservative Friends a couple of years back. Back-to-the-land adherents, they purposefully decided to live the way Quakers from two centuries ago once had. Beginning in the 1970's, this motley group of Friends purposefully adopted plain speech and plain dress. They built a Worship space on the former site of a cow pasture. Like the Amish, they intended to make their living from Agrarian pursuits. This is how they defined Simplicity. This is how they sought to simplify their lives.

Henry David Thoreau's paean to self-denial, Walden, speaks to this idea.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

When whim and popular sentiment overtakes us, our motives for Simplicity move from personal to fashionable. We shop at thrift stores because self-denial is trendy. We seek to reduce our carbon footprint because it makes us seem like good stewards of the environment. We express a kind of appreciation for people on an aesthetic course of one sort or another, removing things and beliefs in an effort to become better people, even more Godly people. Even if this is something we never intend to do ourselves, we quickly nod our approval.

The Gospel of Thomas, one of the rejected Gospels not part of the regular canon, puts these words in Jesus' mouth.
Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Do you not understand that he who made the inside is also he who made the outside?
Concentrating solely on pleasing other people achieves nothing. Concentration on internal change automatically produces external change. May we dare to look inside ourselves for the necessary reforms we believe must come to pass.

Quote of the Week

"I'm afraid I'm not sufficiently inhibited about the things that other women are inhibited about for me. They feel that you've given away trade secrets."- Mary McCarthy

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Very Definition of White Privilege

And in only 90 seconds, no less.

Saturday Video

Dear friend, what's the time?
Is this really the borderline?
Does it really mean so much to you?
Are you afraid, or is it true?

Dear friend, throw the wine.
I'm in love with a friend of mine.
Really truly, young, and newly wed.
Are you a fool, or is it true?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sex Work

Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball

Sex Work

One girl tried to steal you away from the first one who called.

A man, probably of middle age, worked the switchboard. It was him you talked to when discussing payment options and ordering the sort of girl you wanted. I’d received a call from one young woman about my age, then a second call from another ten minutes later. Later, I was told that most men who requested these sorts of services were usually middle aged and paunchy. To be with a younger man was an infrequent treat, and something coveted.

The switchboard operator apologized profusely and said that someone would soon be on her way. I’d figured that something was up, but wasn’t especially picky, all told. Partially lonely, partially seeking sex, there was something that appealed to me about the whole process. There was novelty present in having a stranger arrive at your residence, one who you had never seen before and would never see again.

A few weeks prior, one woman, best described as rode hard and put up wet, encouraged me to circumvent the system. Though we’d had relatively satisfying sex, she stood to gain more monetarily if I called in to claim that I’d changed my mind. Sympathetic to her situation, I lied over the phone so that she’d pocket three times more money than normal. She promised to return later in appreciation, but I didn’t take it seriously. When her empty promise was proven to be as I had suspected, I felt no bitterness.

One couldn’t help but be drawn into the drama a little. One woman arrived in a car with her boyfriend. He sat in the car, outside, to protect his girlfriend, should he have the need to physically intervene. Immediately after we finished up, the two pulled a power play the envy of Bonnie and Clyde. He punched the madam in the face, stealing several thousand dollars from her. The two of them quickly fled the scene.

The madam could not report the crime, as that would make her complicit in a felony offense. Though prostitution is illegal, the more upscale version is shrouded in plausibility denial and euphemism. Escorts are advertised openly in the Yellow Pages, and the police are not stupid. By contrast, the commonplace streetwalker advertising services on a street corner makes no pretenses about what he or she is doing.

I never paid for a male escort. I always saw those as vanity purchases, for those who wanted brief company with a beautiful man. Most of the time, I could usually find sex with a man when I wanted it. I was seen as a tough guy, very masculine, fulfilling the desires of many who had once felt the impossible attraction to a heterosexual man. This was not the case with women.

The one service I used kept me constantly aware of class distinctions. No one I’d have known in school or in town would have ended up in my bed. Or, at least not this way. These were working class country girls, usually, with the occasional wandering out-of-towner passing through. I was honest with them and they were honest with me. Some had drug habits, both past and present. Most had some history of childhood sexual abuse.

One woman told me that the same thing had happened to her five-year-old child. She shrugged her shoulders, as if to say, I tried. I can’t imagine what her current living arrangements were like. I imagine they were dangerous and noxious, but that she had long believed that these were the risks one took. She’d been roaming the country since her teens and had rarely stayed in one place for very long.

She was a kept woman in many ways. Her most frequent customers paid for new clothes and other presents. Once she called me from a department store, where a client had insisted she drop several hundred dollars to please him. She liked the way that expensive clothes made her feel and never seemed to register any impatience with the demands of her clientele.

Keep calling me, she said.

I kept our phone conversation going for months afterwards. She was never annoyed if I called several times a day, in the hopes of finding her at an odd moment. That sort of persistence was necessary because of the nature of her profession. Forever rushing from one place to another during the day and early evening, we had to find time whenever it was available. We might only have five minutes to ourselves every day, but she always seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

Why do you do it?

She answered that the money was good and the work easy enough, once you got used to it. Previously a heroin addict, she was forever seeking funds. Now that she had put that aside, she still enjoyed the substantial cash flow and all that it bought. In her mind, the service she performed was no different than a psychologist. She genuinely felt sympathy for all of her johns and sought to please them.

We conversed for several months. One day, her cell number was mysteriously out of service. It remained out of service for days at a time. That’s where I lost touch with her completely. Fearing for the worst, I nonetheless hoped that there was a perfectly plausible explanation. We never spoke again and I hope she is still alive.

Single Pigeon

Single pigeon through the railing, did she throw you out?
Sunday morning fight about Saturday night.

Single seagull gliding over Regent's Park Canal.
Do you need a pal for a minute or two, you do?
Me too, me too, me too, I'm a lot like you.
Me too, me too, me too, I'm a lot like you.

Did she turf you out in the cold morning rain again.
Me too, me too, me too, I'm a lot like you.
Me too, me too, me too, I'm a lot like you.

Sunday morning fight about Saturday night.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Health Update

The waiting game grows weary without much prompting. Other tests for thyroid antibodies are likely to follow, to establish whether or not an autoimmune disorder is to blame (very likely). I'm not getting what I need right now, so my energy level is extremely low. I feel very discouraged.

My goal was to be healthy by Thanksgiving, but that doesn't seem feasible now. I haven't been to the gym in a month and wonder when I'll be able to return. The body wants me to slow down, but I fight against that impulse as long as there is strength left.

That is to say, I've had to accept a slower pace for writing the book. Memoir usually runs around 200-225 pages. I'm nearly there. Even if I don't have the energy for writing new sections, I've been editing and embellishing previously written chapters. Some need considerable effort, others are more or less fine the way they are now. Be patient with me these next few weeks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

From The End of Memory

From The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World, by Miroslav Volf

I will draw on answers grounded in the Christian faith. And what are the core convictions of that faith? Consider the following five propositions.

1. First, we don’t happen to be in the world as products of chance or necessity; the God of love created each one of us, together with our world.

2. Second, we are not in this world just to fend for ourselves while pursuing lives with as little pain and as much pleasure as possible; God has created us to live with God and one another in a communion of justice and love.

3. Third, humanity has not been left by itself to deal with the divisive results of our deadly failures to love God and neighbor—a fissure of antagonism and suffering that taints all human history and scars individual lives. 

4. Fourth, notwithstanding all appearance, rapacious time will not swallow us into nothingness. At the end of history, God, who took on our finitude in Jesus Christ, will make our fragile flesh imperishable and restore true life to the redeemed, so that forever we may enjoy God, and each other in God.

5. Fifth, the irreversibility of time will not chisel the wrongs we have suffered into the unchangeable reality of our past. The evildoer will not ultimately triumph over the victim. Suffering will not have the final word. God will expose the truth about wrong, condemn each evil deed, and redeem both the repentant perpetrators and their victims, thus reconciling them to God and each other.  

Monday, November 12, 2012


Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball


The first substantial relationship of my life was first conducted from a distance of some 2,000 miles. We’d found ourselves quite by random, which was usual for teenagers in the time of the still-emergent internet. I don’t even remember the website, or if it is even in existence today. What I do remember is writing a profile that revealed me to be two years older than I actually was.

As I recall, she responded to my post shortly thereafter. Her first words, meant in jest at the time, would prove to be prescient.

I think I’m in love with you.

The attraction was instantaneous. Though I was all of sixteen, here was the deep, meaningful relationship I had been seeking all along. Most people my age were dating for fun, or to find themselves. In time, they would eventually catch up with me, but as was often true in my younger days, I was ahead of the curve.

Before long, we began exchanging telephone calls that sometimes stretched as long as six or seven hours. My parents gritted their teeth and paid the long distance bills. Unable to consummate our relationship in person, phone sex had to suffice. At that time, I was in many ways sexually naive, as is I suppose true for everyone at that age. These marathon conversations allowed me to spread my wings and expand my consciousness as a sexual being.

A visit in person would seem to be in order, but she delayed it as long as possible. Her issues with body acceptance were to blame, though I wouldn’t figure that out for much longer. I adored her, but recognized eventually that my affections alone could not assuage her insecurities. An effusive personality barely disguised an extreme (and largely unconfronted) issue with self-esteem. Though she was very funny and ingratiating, I knew it to be compensation for the way she felt about herself.

Overweight and self-loathing, she desperately wanted to be thin. I witnessed how she abused her body with drugs to bring down her weight. The effects would eventually catch up to her. The constant chemical abuse would cause her hair to fall out. It never regained its natural thickness. She hid this from me, as she hid so many other parts of herself.

Even with the flaws, I loved her. In those days, I used drugs recreationally myself, sometimes heavily, but not in the same proportions. Though I smoked too much pot and drank too much, I largely avoided the harder stuff. I felt that I had no room to judge. She was the first relationship partner I’d ever had who bothered to truly get to know me. She’ll always have an understanding of me that few others will.

When she was present, everyone around us thought we were perfectly matched. But that devotion, as I soon learned, was limited. My most substantial criticism of her is what I see to be a kind of cowardice. I frequently felt betrayed.

Her means of coping with stress was to disappear. Phone calls and e-mails would suddenly go unanswered. In my absence, she sought the company of her friends. I did not approve of most of them, who I saw as bad influences. Her best friend was rude and obnoxious, and vocal about his drug usage and sexual escapades with random men. She was a fag hag and something appealed to her about the seedy underbelly of queer culture.

I never tried to push her apart from any of her friends. She’d made it clear to me that ultimatums would only backfire. If I wanted her, I had to accept her on her own terms. She had an exasperating way of embracing toxic environments that were well beneath anyone’s basic standards of decency. One word for it is slumming.

She found many things gorgeously trashy. These included dive bars in rough neighborhoods and conventions of people who found it sexually arousing to dress up like stuffed animals. Along with the spectacle, these were all pursued with the intention of eventually being writing material. Though her talent was undeniable, her self-discipline was lacking. Successful writing requires time, effort, patience, and copious editing.

Still, she always had a way of keeping me laughing. Her sense of humor was a strong suit, though at times she overplayed her hand. I sometimes heard the same anecdote three or four times. A performer by nature, everyone she met she felt needed to be impressed and entertained. When I was lucky enough to be in her presence, I fell in love with her all over again.

Years after the fact, I was directed to a very revealing blog post. In it, she revealed many of the reason for her periods of distance. Her drug use had been worse than I could have ever dreamed. In part, her pushing away from me, in her mind, had been to spare me.

You’re the most stable person I have ever dated
, I’d said earlier.

Her reply was immediate. I’m so sorry!

At times, she sought distance because I happened to be suffering from a severe episode of either depression or mania. Her father was severely mentally ill and terrorized the family. His illness, which he had never sought fit to properly treat, had traumatized her starting from a young age. If she picked up even the mildest similarity between the two of us, she couldn’t get away fast enough.

I will always retain a fondness for her, but I recognize now we are better parted. She was my first love and first loves do not entirely fade from memory. Even with the problems we had, she formed part of who I am today. I did the same for her. Her advice and guidance was often accurate and helpful. But we are better parted and I see that now.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quote of the Week

"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain."- James Baldwin

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday Video

It could all be so simple
But you'd rather make it hard
Loving you is like a battle
And we both end up with scars

Tell me, who I have to be
To get some reciprocity
No one loves you more than me
And no one ever will

Is this just a silly game
That forces you to act this way?
Forces you to scream my name
Then pretend that you can't stay

Tell me, who I have to be
To get some reciprocity
No one loves you more than me
And no one ever will

No matter how I think we grow
You always seem to let me know
It ain't workin', It ain't workin' (No, it ain't workin')

And when I try to walk away
You'd hurt yourself to make me stay
This is crazy, this is crazy (This is crazy, uh-huh!)

I keep letting you back in
How can I explain myself?
As painful as this thing has been
I just can't be with no one else

See I know what we've got to do
You let go, and I'll let go too
'Cause no one's hurt me more than you
And no one ever will

No matter how I think we grow
You always seem to let me know
It ain't workin', It ain't workin' (It ain't workin')

And when I try to walk away
You'd hurt yourself to make me stay
This is crazy, this is crazy

Care for me, care for me!
I know you care for me!

There for me, there for me!
Said you'd be there for me!

Cry for me, cry for me!
You said you'd die for me!

Give to me, give to me!
Why won't you live for me?

Friday, November 09, 2012

Sea of Madness

How can I bring you
to the Sea of Madness?
I love you so much
It's gonna bring me sadness

I've never seen you
Through these eyes before
Now I don't believe it
I think I'll take it or leave it.

All I need
Is your sweet sweet loving
Fill my life with happiness

All I want is your heart
Every time I think of you
Mine falls apart.

I went to heaven
And I stood at the crossroads
I'll love you tomorrow
As sure as the wind blows

Silver rain
on the mountain clover
Washes away
Until the music is over.

Medical Studies

My life, in pictures. Click to embiggen.

This is what a Thyroid Uptake and Scan test looks like. The butterfly shaped impressions are visual representations of the Thyroid gland.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Changing Times Call for Changing Strategies

Primarily for my Quaker audience.

The election season now mercifully over, we can next draw some conclusions.

Obama won, in large part, due to changing demographics. Regardless of other theories dangled by the media in front of the American people, a very simple rationale is in force. Populations have shifted away from the Rust Belt in the north to the Sun Belt in the south. The long promised power of the Latino vote is now a reality. Plainly put, the United States is a much more ethnically diverse country. What we experienced last night is only the beginning of a trend.

Now to Quakers. How will Friends adapt to these inevitable changes? A still-predominately white, increasingly gray-headed Society of Friends must stay pertinent if it wishes to survive. Much as the Republican Party can no longer rely on white men and white women to carry it to victory, we can no longer depend upon our own tried-and-true constituency. Voices have been telling us to take this path for years, but we have been either unwilling or unable to do so.

How will we reach out to the world beyond the four walls of the Meetinghouse? Will it take us growing dangerously close to obsolescence first? A radical rethinking of a sort would seem in order.

Our regional enclaves are in the Mid-Atlantic states and New England. These areas have had a sustained Friendly presence for centuries. But even they have shed membership over time. Scattered throughout the rest of the United States are pockets of Quakers here and there. Do we want to only retain what we have, or are we willing to extend our message to Friends who may not look, act, or talk as Quakers as supposed to do?

For years, we've been discussing the inevitable. And now, Friends, the inevitable has arrived. How do we stay pertinent and on the cutting edge? One branch which calls itself Quaker believes deeply in mission work, some of it in Africa, some in Latin America. Those who find the practice distasteful when conducted overseas need to do some of it here at home.

The mission work we need most is here in America. Fears of proselytizing must be put aside. Discomfort with organized religion must be shelved. We have a compelling message to share with the world.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches,

"Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light."

We may have confused light with darkness. Reevaluating ourselves is the first step towards greater illumination. If we want to survive, we cannot rest on our haunches. It is possible to get too comfortable with the status quo. The one variable that has been the nemesis of many Friends is time itself. Time sneaks up on us because of its plodding, incremental pace, but sooner or later, we wake from our daydreaming to find that it is here in front of us.

The clock is ticking.


At evening's end

remain when all fact and truth
has long passed away

Conversation competition
cleverest victory can
short-circuit the social hierarchy

Age and experience
often trumps youth's insecurity

the wild card

The catalyst
for social mobility

Older party-goers
establish the rules

Remember similar

Reflects intention

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Hope and Change, Take Two

Almost four years ago today, I proudly cast my ballot for Barack Obama. Like many others I knew, the then Senator from Illinois appeared to be exactly what we had dreamed would someday arrive. And, for the first time in my life, I actively volunteered to help a Presidential candidate. I was not compensated for my time, but never asked to be. I was so thrilled to be a part that I didn't mind.

I canvassed neighborhoods, knocking on door after door. It's tough work. Soliciting the public for votes puts you on your feet in the elements for hours at a time. I worked a rope line at a speech Obama gave at the Atlanta Convention Center. At least there you get to be indoors, but it feels a bit like a combination of herding cattle and directing traffic.

Today, I am headed out the door for the polls the instant I finish this post. My dreams are much more realistic this time around. I was highly critical at the time of people who expected revolutionary changes in American life from one man. Even so, I myself entertained the Obama glow for a while, though it faded slowly but surely when economic problems persisted and needed reforms never came to pass. We were all giddy for three months. Now we're weary.

The candidate I met in person nearly four and a half years ago was in a bad mood. In all fairness, there could have been any number of reasons for this. I sought to shake his hand individually, rather than packed together as part of the group to whom I had been assigned. Obama coldly ignored my request and my outstretched hand. Motioning with his eyes, he directed me to cram into the middle of others. I caught the top of his very large hand and nothing more. Shortly after that he moved on down the line.

Everyone's entitled to a bad day every now and again. But it did provide a jarring disconnect. Minutes before, I'd been awed by Obama's soaring oratory. The person I viewed now was entirely human and even a little rude. His curt behavior continued towards his handlers, while he reached the back of the adjacent room. They methodically guided him across the length of the hall as he complained about one thing or the other.

I suppose he might be forgiven to be so crabby. His campaign was just beginning to gain traction, and I believe that then he was still trailing substantially in the polls to Hillary Clinton. The Obama we've gotten to know over the past four years is still very much an enigma. I wonder if, should be be re-elected, that we will know the President beyond his eloquence and apparent political centrism.

A part of me believes that I ought never cast a vote again for a Presidential candidate without he or she first having substantial experience in Washington, DC. Electing Hillary Clinton might, in hindsight, have been a better decision. But this is merely a hypothetical, and hypothetical scenarios have limitations.

Of course, now that past really doesn't matter, except for the recent past of economic suffering and general uncertainty. I once set my sights high, and now I just hope Obama does as little harm as possible. True political leaders are few and far between now, on both sides of the aisle. I don't expect a savior to rescue us from ourselves, but our health as a country will be determined by the success or failure of  his policies.

Obama was the anti-Bush and that's what we wanted then. Now, we're not sure what we need or what will succeed.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Wounded Bird

Here's my version, recorded on the multi-track recorder.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Quote of the Week

 "Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours."- Voltaire

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Winner

(Shel Silverstein)

The hulk of a man with a beer in his hand looked like a drunk old fool,
And I knew that if I hit him right, I could knock him off that stool.
But everybody said, "Watch out -- that's Tiger Man McCool.
He's had a whole lot of fights, and he always comes out the winner.
Yeah, he's a winner."

But I'd had myself about five too many, and I walked up tall and proud,
I faced his back and I faced the fact that he'd never stooped or bowed.
I said, "Tiger Man, you're a pussycat," and a hush fell on the crowd,
I said, "Let's you and me go outside and see who's the winner"...

Well, he gripped the bar with one big hairy hand and he braced against the
He slowly looked up from his beer -- my God, that man was tall.
He said, "Boy, I see you're a scrapper, so just before you fall,
I'm gonna tell you just a little what a means to be a winner."

He said, "You see these bright white smilin' teeth, you know they ain't my own.
Mine rolled away like Chiclets down a street in San Antone.
But I left that person cursin', nursin' seven broken bones.
And he only broke three of mine, and that make me a winner."

He said, "Behind this grin, I got a steel pin that holds my jaw in place.
A trophy of my most successful motorcycle race.
And every mornin' when I wake and touch this scar across my face,
It reminds me of all I got by bein' a winner.

Now my broken back was the dyin' act of handsome Harry Clay
That sticky Cincinnati night I stole his wife away.
But that woman, she gets uglier and meaner every day.
But I got her, boy, and that's what makes me a winner.

You gotta speak loud when you challenge me, son, 'cause it's hard for me
to hear
With this twisted neck and these migraine pains and this cauliflower ear.
'N' if it weren't for this glass eye of mine, I'd shed a happy tear
To think of all you'll get by bein' a winner.

I got arthritic elbows, boy, I got dislocated knees,
From pickin' fights with thunderstorms and chargin' into trees.
And my nose been broke so often I might lose it if I sneeze.
And, son, you say you still wanna be a winner?

My spine is short three vertebrae and my hip is screwed together.
My ankles warn me every time there'll be a change in weather.
Guess I kicked too many asses, and when the kicks all get together,
They sure can slow you down when you're a winner.

My knuckles are so swollen I can hardly make a fist.
Who would have thought old Charlie had a blade taped to his wrist?
And my blind eye's where he cut me, and my good eye's where he missed.
Yeah, you lose a couple of things when you're a winner.

My head is just a bunch of clumps and lumps and bumps and scars
From chargin' broken bottles and buttin' crowded bars.
And this hernia -- well, it only proves a man can't lift a car.
But you're expected to do it all when you're a winner.

Got a steel plate inside my skull, underneath this store-bought hair.
My pelvis is aluminum from takin' ladies' dares.
And if you had a magnet, son, you could lift me off my chair.
I'm a man of steel, but I'm rustin' -- what a winner.

I got a perforated ulcer, I got strictures and incisions.
My prostate's barely holdin' up from those all-night collisions.
And I'll have to fight two of you because of my double vision.
You're lookin' sick, son -- that ain't right for a winner.

Winnin' that last stock-car race cost me my favorite toes.
Winnin' that factory foreman's job, it browned and broke my nose.
And these hemorrhoids come from winnin' all them goddamn rodeos.
Sometimes it's a pain in the butt to be a winner.

In the war, I got the Purple Heart, that's why my nerves are gone.
And I ruined my liver in drinkin' contests, which I always won.
And I should be retired now, rockin' on my lawn,
But you losers keep comin' on -- makin' me a winner.

When I walk, you can hear my pelvis rattle, creak and crack
From my great Olympic Hump-Off with that nymphomaniac,
After which I spent the next six weeks in traction on my back,
While she walked off smilin' -- leavin' me the winner.

Now, as I kick in your family jewels, you'll notice my left leg drags,
And this jacket's kinda padded up where my right shoulder sags,
And there's a special part of me I keep in this paper bag,
And I'll show it to you -- if you want to see all of the winner.

So I never play the violin and I seldom dance or ski.
They say there never was a hero brave and strong as me.
But when you're this year's hero, son, you're next year's used-to-be.
And that's the facts of life -- when you're a winner.

Now, you remind me a lot of my younger days with your knuckles clenchin' white.
But, boy, I'm gonna sit right here and sip this beer all night.
And if there's somethin' you gotta prove by winnin' some silly fight,
Well, OK, I quit, I lose, son, you're the winner."

So I stumbled from that barroom not so tall and not so proud,
And behind me I could hear the hoots of laughter from the crowd.
But my eyes still see and my nose still works and my teeth are
still in my mouth.
And y'know...I guess that makes me...a winner.

Saturday Video

I've watched you go through changes
That no man should face alone
Take to heel or tame the horse
The choice is still your own

But arm yourself against the pain
A wounded bird can give
And in the end remember
It's with you you have to live
And in the end remember
It's with you you have to live

Stand your ground I think you've got
The guts it takes to win
But you must learn to turn the key
Before she'll let you in

And understand the problems
Of the girl you want so near
Or you'll wear the coats of questions
Till the answer hat is here
You'll wear the coat of questions
Till the answer hat is here

Serenade your Angel with
A love song from your eyes
Grow a little taller
Even though your age defies

Feel a little smaller
And in stature you will rise
A hobo or a poet
Must kill dragons for a bride
And humble pie is always
Hard to swallow with your pride

Thursday, November 01, 2012


Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball


I do not remember my Grandfather, my mother’s father, as much as I would like. Of my two sisters, I’m probably the only child old enough to retain any trace of him. He died when I was nearly seven. I have faint memories of him being well, but I mostly know him when he was in a terminally ill state. At times, I have wished that I was born years earlier and could have developed a real rapport with him.

He doted upon me and my mother. She was his youngest child by far. Sixteen years separate my oldest uncle and my mother. My mother does not remember her brother living at home. Grandfather was forty-five when my mother was born. Mom was no doubt influenced by the fact that her parents were much older than those of most of the kids her age. My father had been raised in similar circumstances, and I imagine that often drew them together.

The cancer had taken its toll. It was terminal and progressed swiftly. My parents believed that his gaunt, haggard appearance would only upset myself and my two sisters. We were never allowed to see him at his sickbed. My parents inexplicably changed their minds one day. I’d been eager to see him after months apart and leapt at the opportunity.

I saw a weak, pale figure propped up on pillows. He had just enough strength left in his body to address me. Grandfather often quizzed me informally on topics of history. He knew I had an interest in it and enjoyed teaching me new facts and ideas.

Did Harry Truman go to college?

His voice was little more than a resigned, sad whisper by then. My first instinct was to say no, but then I changed my mind. He looked disappointed at my response.

No, he did not.

I felt as though I’d failed him somehow. I was quickly ushered from the room, a place I would never again return. It was clear that my parents had arranged only a momentary visit and that I would not tarry there long. He passed away a couple months later.

Now to the matter of the question asked of me. Intelligent beyond my years, older people seemed to always want to ask me trivia. I acted the part of the boy genius, often providing the correct answer. About the same time, an elderly man offered me ten dollars if I could recite the alphabet backwards in his presence. My mind does not work in such a fashion, but ten dollars was a lot of money in those days.

With my Grandfather, there were different motives for this game of teacher and pupil. To him, I was not a novelty. This line of questioning about Presidents and colleges was due to my Grandfather’s own upbringing. Though more than capable enough intellectually for college, the Great Depression left his family without the money to afford it.

The whole of his life, he felt inferior to those who’d had the opportunity to go. He was an autodidact with an amazing recall and had taught himself as much as any professor could, but still the deficiency nagged away at him. Education was important to him. He read the newspaper front to cover every day, sometimes two or three.

It is a stock cliche of a sort to introduce the specter of death at a young age. Still, the pomp and circumstance of dearly departed does make a powerful impression upon a child. I recall the slow procession of black cars pulling alongside the roadway of the cemetery. I remember taking shade under the tree he’d planted years before with his own hands. The family plot was a reverent destination we would visit for years afterwards.

I think the dead deserve our respect. Not only do they remind us that someday we ourselves will die, but we ought to take time from our busy lives to remember the memory of those who influenced us. Every time I visited the gravesite I was always struck by a sense of loss. I felt that he’d been taken from me prematurely, but I trust that God had a greater purpose for him. If I get to Heaven, I hope I get a chance to speak at length to him.

My mother was, quite understandably, utterly devastated. At thirty, she was younger than I am today when she lost her father. I remember she entered into a period of deep grieving that lasted for over a year. My Grandfather’s name could not be mentioned in her company, or she would begin sobbing. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a parent, though I know I will experience this same feeling eventually. That eventuality beckons sooner than I feel comfortable contemplating.

The death didn’t haunt me the way it could have, if I’d been a little older. There were a few scary moments here and there, but I was deliberately insulated from most of them. My Grandparents moved to a retirement community in Birmingham from the family home so that Grandfather could be closer to his doctors. One day, playing quietly by myself on the carpeted floor, I remember the paramedics being called.

I learned later that my Grandfather needed to return to the hospital. There was a tense energy in the air that I picked up on, but I said nothing. I didn’t know what was going on and, in any case, everyone was too busy and preoccupied to explain it to me. It must have been close to the end by then. In my mind, the events are scattered, but I was very young. I suppose it must appears this way to any young child.

The class assignments for a new school year were posted on the outside doors to the front entrance of my elementary school. Having passed Kindergarten, First Grade now beckoned. Had Mom been less preoccupied, she would have intervened in my behalf. I was assigned to a teacher who genuinely hated children. Why she’d decided to take up the profession is beyond me. I imagine she could have been extremely burned out. Her reputation preceded her and no one looked forward to nine full months with her.

Mom made one last desperate, in-person appeal to the principal, but received a lecture instead of any sympathy. The next school year, he’d be sent to transportation, which in some public schools is the equivalent of being sent to Coventry. In the school year to follow, I would contract a severe case of chicken pox that kept me out of school for nearly a month. My teacher didn’t call even once.